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AFC playoff picture, Week 14: Who should Buffalo Bills fans root for?

Your Bills rooting interests last for all three days of the NFL’s schedule.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

AFC Standings

1. Oakland Raiders (10-2, 7-1 AFC)
2. New England Patriots (10-2, 7-1 AFC)
3. Baltimore Ravens (7-5, head-to-head win over PIT)
4. Houston Texans (6-6, head-to-head win over TEN & IND)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
6. Denver Broncos (8-4)
7. Miami Dolphins (7-5, head-to-head win over PIT)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5, head-to-head loss to BAL & MIA)
9. Indianapolis Colts (6-6, head-to-head loss to HOU, head-to-head wins over TEN, 4-5 in AFC)
10. Tennessee Titans (6-6, head-to-head loss to HOU & IND, 2-2 common opponent w/ BUF)
11. Buffalo Bills (6-6, 1-3 common opponent w/ JAX)
12. San Diego Chargers (5-7)
13. Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1)
14. New York Jets (3-9*)
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10*)
16. Cleveland Browns (0-12*)

* Eliminated from the playoff race.

(Here are the tiebreaker procedures if you’d like:

Who to root for

Here are the games that matter to Buffalo’s playoff hopes in order of importance:

Buffalo Bills (6-6) over Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6)

Sunday, December 11th, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Bills won’t be eliminated if they lose, but it will take crazy scenarios to get them in the playoffs. At 10-6, the scenarios aren’t that crazy. It’s an important AFC game against a playoff contender at home. Can Buffalo step up?

Tennessee Titans (6-6) over Denver Broncos (8-4)

Sunday, December 11th, 1:00 p.m. ET

That sixth playoff spot is the one on the board for the Bills. Right now, Denver owns it. They’ll need to lose two games down the stretch to even make it a reality. A game in Tennessee, hosting New England, at Kansas City, and against Oakland clearly puts that on the table. This is not the longest of shots.

Arizona Cardinals over Miami Dolphins (7-5)

Sunday, December 11th, 1:00 p.m. ET

Miami did their part last week, losing to the Baltimore Ravens. Buffalo couldn’t capitalize. The Bills need at least one more Dolphins loss in addition to a win over Miami in two weeks. The Cardinals are a mediocre team traveling across the country but it would sure help Buffalo if they could win.

Oakland Raiders (8-2) over Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)

Thursday, December 8th, 8:30 p.m. ET

The fifth playoff spot is still reachable for Buffalo but Kansas City would have to go on a big losing streak. It is still helpful for the Bills thanks to the strength of schedule tiebreaker if Oakland can keep doing well.

New England Patriots (10-2) over Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

Monday, December 12th, 8:30 p.m. ET

Unless you think Buffalo can pull off a miracle win in the division, this is the play to make in case Baltimore falls below the Steelers at some point and back into the Wild Card race.

Houston Texans (6-6) over Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

Sunday, December 11th, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Colts still have to play the Vikings, Raiders, and Jaguars. The Texans still have the Jaguars, Bengals, and Titans. What we really need is the loser of this game to just go away.

Carolina Panthers over San Diego Chargers (5-7)

Sunday, December 11th, 1:00 p.m. ET

A West Coast team traveling across the country for a 1:00 start. A loss by the Chargers ends their season and gives Buffalo one less potential 9-7 team to worry about in the unlikely event it comes down to that. It also hurts the AFC West teams strength of victory/schedule tiebreakers.

Games that matter just a little

These are tiebreakers that come further down the list. They only matter if the big picture stuff happens first but the devil is in the details

Jacksonville Jaguars over Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, December 11th, 1:00 p.m. ET

Los Angeles Rams over Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, December 11th, 4:25 p.m. ET

These would help Buffalo’s strength of victory tiebreaker.

New York Jets over San Francisco 49ers

Sunday, December 11th, 4:05 p.m. ET

This would help Buffalo’s strength of schedule tiebreaker. Presumably they will have one win over each by the end of the year.

Seattle Seahawks over Green Bay Packers

Sunday, December 11th, 4:25 p.m. ET

This will help Buffalo’s strength of schedule.

Games that don’t matter

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins

Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns

Buffalo needs to beat the Browns and the already beat the Bengals. Straight talk.

What it means

If all of this happens, Buffalo will move up to ninth in the AFC, passing Pittsburgh and the loser of Indianapolis/Houston. They would be in a much better position, though. The Broncos are the most important part of this equation. In order to get into sixth, they need the most help there. If Week 14 shakes out this way, Buffalo’s postseason odds would double.